Best camera for $500?

Started Apr 1, 2011 | Discussions
jungleexplorer
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Best camera for $500?
Apr 1, 2011

My first digital camera was the Sony CD500. It took good pictures but had horrible write lag. I replaced it with the Sony V1 and then later the Canon SD1100IS. Among these, the V1 was hands down my favorite camera. It had manual controls, that once I learned out to use, allowed me to take pictures that the much newer Canon SD1100IS fails to capture. But that said, the V1 did not have the best picture quality (it was not bad) and it has significant write lag, and of course it was only a 5 megapixel. I have really missed it since I upgraded to the SD1100IS even though the SD1100IS has almost flawless color balance and a much better built in flash.

So now I am ready to upgrade again and a point and shoot it out of the picture. But I can't afford to go dslr either. I have always wanted a longer zoom lens because I do a lot of outdoor stuff and the megazooms are real attractive. A lot of them also do video and that would be a real plus on a mountain hiking trip, having one camera that can take both stills and videos. But now I see another camera out there called a Micro Four-Thirds. From what I read they seem to be something like a compact dslr, but they don't come with a lens.

So my question is this. Should I go with a Micro Four-Thirds and save up for a zoom lens like comes on the Finepix HS20? Or should I just buy a good megazoom? If the answer is yes to the first question, which Micro Four-Thirds should I look at and how would I go about finding a 30X lens for it. If it is yes to the magazoom, which one? Thanks

sdboyd79
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

It really depends on what you want to shoot. Low light? Outdoors/scenic? Wildlife? I'm not totally up to speed with the MFT cameras, but generally, you're going to spend lots of money for zoom lenses that come close to the zoom range offered in today's bridge superzooms. Being that you mentioned outdoors, I'd say that for your price range, you're probably better off with a superzoom camera. I know I had a good experience with Panasonics. You may look into the Panasonic FZ-50, but there are plenty of others. You really just need to roll your sleeves up and do some research into the latest superzooms. Perhaps someone here will be able to provide a little bit better insight into the newer superzooms.
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trekkeruss
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

You can afford a DSLR; there are a few that you could get for under $500 with a kit lens. You can even get a DSLR with two lenses for close to $600. Or you do not like the size?

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John Glover
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

You'll not find a 30x zoom for any interchangeable lens camera, it would be the size of a howitzer...........

The best you will do for MFT in terms of a long zoom ration will be a 14-140 class lens. In terms of focal length will be a 100-300mm, which gives an effective field of view of a 200-600mm zoom in a native MFT lens. you can use an adapter to add a legacy lens such as a Tamron 200-500mm but you will lose some lens/camera functionality. And none of this will come in under $500.

As far as a megazoom goes, that is the only way you will get the zoom ration you are looking for at your price point. In good light the image quality should be acceptable, but the camera will most likely struggle in low light due to the small sensor size, slowish lens at the long end of the zoom and relatively (compared to MFt or a DSLR) poor high ISO performance. It will also probably not be the fastest to focus as well.

So what you have is compromise in both system and you will need to weigh which is more important to your style of shooting, better image quality or the long zoom ratio.

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rude
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

m43 do come with bundled lenses in the kit but i dont think there is a 30x lens available. i think if you want a 30x lens then , stick with canon and go for the sx30 bridge camera with a 35x zoom. its not an slr or a point and shoot but somewhere in between. its got a good rep too. go to a store and try one out. it also has a flip out screen. r
it can be had for 400ish above and below.

jungleexplorer wrote:

My first digital camera was the Sony CD500. It took good pictures but had horrible write lag. I replaced it with the Sony V1 and then later the Canon SD1100IS. Among these, the V1 was hands down my favorite camera. It had manual controls, that once I learned out to use, allowed me to take pictures that the much newer Canon SD1100IS fails to capture. But that said, the V1 did not have the best picture quality (it was not bad) and it has significant write lag, and of course it was only a 5 megapixel. I have really missed it since I upgraded to the SD1100IS even though the SD1100IS has almost flawless color balance and a much better built in flash.

So now I am ready to upgrade again and a point and shoot it out of the picture. But I can't afford to go dslr either. I have always wanted a longer zoom lens because I do a lot of outdoor stuff and the megazooms are real attractive. A lot of them also do video and that would be a real plus on a mountain hiking trip, having one camera that can take both stills and videos. But now I see another camera out there called a Micro Four-Thirds. From what I read they seem to be something like a compact dslr, but they don't come with a lens.

So my question is this. Should I go with a Micro Four-Thirds and save up for a zoom lens like comes on the Finepix HS20? Or should I just buy a good megazoom? If the answer is yes to the first question, which Micro Four-Thirds should I look at and how would I go about finding a 30X lens for it. If it is yes to the magazoom, which one? Thanks

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Deleted1929
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

Another question is why you think you need a 30x zoom ?

In practical terms how long a reach do you need ?
And how wide an angle ?

Most people simply don't need these insane zooms any more than they need the huge megapixel counts.

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jungleexplorer
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to trekkeruss, Apr 1, 2011

trekkeruss wrote:

You can afford a DSLR; there are a few that you could get for under $500 with a kit lens. You can even get a DSLR with two lenses for close to $600. Or you do not like the size?

I have never seen one. I have seen some micro four thirds for $650 with a basic lens, but not a dslr. But yes to your last question. I am just as likely to take a macro of a flower as am to take shot of a deer 300 yards away and then shoot a panorama. Not mention a campfire shot at night without a flash, I have never owned a dslr, but from what I have read, I would need a bunch of lenses to do all of the above. I don't want to lug 30 pounds of camera equipment around. If I could get a single lens for dslr that would do all the things the lens on the HS20 can do, I would be very happy with a dslr.

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jungleexplorer
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to Deleted1929, Apr 1, 2011

sjgcit wrote:

Another question is why you think you need a 30x zoom ?

In practical terms how long a reach do you need ?
And how wide an angle ?

Most people simply don't need these insane zooms any more than they need the huge megapixel counts.

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StephenG

On most days, I would never need a 30x zoom lens. But there have been many occasions (although not common) in which I needed to shoot something far off in the distance, say a small colorful bird in the top of a tree or an elk at 300 yards.

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zackiedawg
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

One thing you should try to separate yourself from is the '12x, 30x, 15x' as an indicator of telephoto capability. It's actually possible for a 12x camera to reach farther than a 15x camera. the multiplier is added to whatever the widest angle of the lens is - so a 24mm wide end with a 15x zoom would be the equivalent of 360mm lens' reach...while a 36mm wide end with a 12x zoom would be the equivalent of a 432mm lens' reach. So don't get too wrapped up in the X factor.

That said, a megazoom P&S camera will typically have more overall reach and range than any DSLR or mirrorless camera (which includes micro 4:3, Samsung NX, and Sony NEX). They can achieve this by reducing everything in scale - they start by using a tiny itty bitty little sensor - orders of magnitude smaller than that of a DSLR, and even quite a bit smaller than the one in your old V1. It's so tiny that the optical lenses needed to produce big telephoto range can be tiny too - since light only needs to fall on a tiny little speck of a sensor. So these cameras can be something that fits in a coat pocket, with lenses that extend only 5-6 inches at most, yet can reach 600-800mm. Upside? Much more flexibility of focal range. Downside? Tiny sensor = not as good details, poor low light capability, less cropping room, and often smearing effects from noise-reduction in the camera even at lower ISOs. Are they so bad that they are unusable? Not at all - they can be just fine for many people, and I shot for years with an ultrazoom camera and had fine 8x10 prints. You really only will discover the limitations when it comes to camera speed, fine detail, heavy cropping needs, or low light situations.

There actually ARE some 'ultrazoom' type lenses that can come pretty close to the range of the ultrazoom camers on a DSLR. They can be pretty decent, and also surprisingly compact (for a DSLR...not compared to a P&S camera). For example, years ago I got a DSLR and one of the first lenses I paired with it was an 18-250mm lens...I specifically wanted it as a 'travel zoom' that could somewhat replace my ultrazoom camera I had been used to - with a typical DSLR using an APS-C sensor, that lens was basically a 27mm to 375mm equivalent, and wasn't much bigger or heavier than a kit lens. it was a '14x' zoom, to put it in P&S terms. Not as big as today's 30x zooms, but quite good. To this day, I still use this lens as my go-to default lens, travel lens, and all-purpose lens - the one I can use to shoot a closeup of a flower, a scenic landscape, a building, a portrait zoom, or an animal in the distance. No lens changes. Does it satisfy my every DSLR need? Well, no - but I'm a big DSLR fan and I became addicted to the idea of having specialized lenses for different purposes, and covering focal lengths farther and wider than the 18-250 could...so I've got 8 lenses to serve different needs. But if I go on a trip where I want to travel light, or am unsure of what situations I'll need to cover, or where traveling with a bag of lenses is inconvenient or unsafe, I maintain the option and ability to just stick the 18-250mm on the camera, and head out - no other lenses or bags.

That type of lens can be picked up used by the way, in the vicinity of $400-500...the camera body for a half decent one might go for $300-500...so it will be over your budget to get both together. Maybe you're willing to go a bit over budget...or maybe you could live with a more basic lens range initially and save up to buy the ultrazoom lens later...something to think about. You can get a nice DSLR for $500 nowadays - Pentax KX & Sony A500 or A550 for example - both very good all around performers.

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trekkeruss
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

jungleexplorer wrote:

trekkeruss wrote:

You can afford a DSLR; there are a few that you could get for under $500 with a kit lens. You can even get a DSLR with two lenses for close to $600. Or you do not like the size?

I have never seen one. I have seen some micro four thirds for $650 with a basic lens, but not a dslr.

Here's a few:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sony-Alpha-A230-Slr-Digital/11089350?sourceid=1500000000000003142050&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=11089350

http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00353193000P?sid=IDx20070921x00003c&srccode=cii_10043468&cpncode=23-134739068-2

http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00353474000P?sid=IDx20070921x00003c&srccode=cii_10043468&cpncode=23-134739159-2

Here's a two lens kit for $620 (using coupon BUYUDIGCLUB30):

http://www.buydig.com/shop/product.aspx?sku=PKKXKT255300K

I have never owned a dslr, but from what I have read, I would need a bunch of lenses to do all of the above. I don't want to lug 30 pounds of camera equipment around. If I could get a single lens for dslr that would do all the things the lens on the HS20 can do, I would be very happy with a dslr.

A Tamron 18-270mm (available for Canon and Nikon only) comes pretty close. It doesn't offer as high a quality of images as two or three more specialized lenses, but it is an all-in-one solution.

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jungleexplorer
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to zackiedawg, Apr 1, 2011

zackiedawg wrote:

One thing you should try to separate yourself from is the '12x, 30x, 15x' as an indicator of telephoto capability. It's actually possible for a 12x camera to reach farther than a 15x camera. the multiplier is added to whatever the widest angle of the lens is - so a 24mm wide end with a 15x zoom would be the equivalent of 360mm lens' reach...while a 36mm wide end with a 12x zoom would be the equivalent of a 432mm lens' reach. So don't get too wrapped up in the X factor.

That said, a megazoom P&S camera will typically have more overall reach and range than any DSLR or mirrorless camera (which includes micro 4:3, Samsung NX, and Sony NEX). They can achieve this by reducing everything in scale - they start by using a tiny itty bitty little sensor - orders of magnitude smaller than that of a DSLR, and even quite a bit smaller than the one in your old V1. It's so tiny that the optical lenses needed to produce big telephoto range can be tiny too - since light only needs to fall on a tiny little speck of a sensor. So these cameras can be something that fits in a coat pocket, with lenses that extend only 5-6 inches at most, yet can reach 600-800mm. Upside? Much more flexibility of focal range. Downside? Tiny sensor = not as good details, poor low light capability, less cropping room, and often smearing effects from noise-reduction in the camera even at lower ISOs. Are they so bad that they are unusable? Not at all - they can be just fine for many people, and I shot for years with an ultrazoom camera and had fine 8x10 prints. You really only will discover the limitations when it comes to camera speed, fine detail, heavy cropping needs, or low light situations.

There actually ARE some 'ultrazoom' type lenses that can come pretty close to the range of the ultrazoom camers on a DSLR. They can be pretty decent, and also surprisingly compact (for a DSLR...not compared to a P&S camera). For example, years ago I got a DSLR and one of the first lenses I paired with it was an 18-250mm lens...I specifically wanted it as a 'travel zoom' that could somewhat replace my ultrazoom camera I had been used to - with a typical DSLR using an APS-C sensor, that lens was basically a 27mm to 375mm equivalent, and wasn't much bigger or heavier than a kit lens. it was a '14x' zoom, to put it in P&S terms. Not as big as today's 30x zooms, but quite good. To this day, I still use this lens as my go-to default lens, travel lens, and all-purpose lens - the one I can use to shoot a closeup of a flower, a scenic landscape, a building, a portrait zoom, or an animal in the distance. No lens changes. Does it satisfy my every DSLR need? Well, no - but I'm a big DSLR fan and I became addicted to the idea of having specialized lenses for different purposes, and covering focal lengths farther and wider than the 18-250 could...so I've got 8 lenses to serve different needs. But if I go on a trip where I want to travel light, or am unsure of what situations I'll need to cover, or where traveling with a bag of lenses is inconvenient or unsafe, I maintain the option and ability to just stick the 18-250mm on the camera, and head out - no other lenses or bags.

That type of lens can be picked up used by the way, in the vicinity of $400-500...the camera body for a half decent one might go for $300-500...so it will be over your budget to get both together. Maybe you're willing to go a bit over budget...or maybe you could live with a more basic lens range initially and save up to buy the ultrazoom lens later...something to think about. You can get a nice DSLR for $500 nowadays - Pentax KX & Sony A500 or A550 for example - both very good all around performers.

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Thanks for the very informative post. I will look at these option you gave me. But how do I find an 18-250mm lens. Are lens interchangeable between dslrs? Can you use a canon lens on a sony? This is what scares me about dslrs. It's a lot of money to play with if you don't know what your doing.

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John Glover
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

No, in general lenses are not interchangeble bewteen systems, so it is important to carefully weigh your needs when getting a DSLR. It does basically lock you into one system, if you want to be able to use the full functionality of the camera. Canon and Nikon have the largest amount of lenses/flashes/accessories available but many of these are very expensive fast stabilized glass or pro level accessories the average enthusiast or amateur may never need. Pentax, Sony and Olympus, while generally have less choices, will usually have plenty of gear to satisfy the needs of most all photographers. Plus, with Pentax and Sony, you also have the ability to draw from the older Pentax K mount lenses (which is a huge amount of glass), while Sony can use the older Minolta system lenses.

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zackiedawg
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

jungleexplorer wrote:

Thanks for the very informative post. I will look at these option you gave me. But how do I find an 18-250mm lens. Are lens interchangeable between dslrs? Can you use a canon lens on a sony? This is what scares me about dslrs. It's a lot of money to play with if you don't know what your doing.

Indeed it is - a lot of money, an addiction to buying many lenses which you end up always catching even if you don't think you will, and the learning curve in really understanding how to take control of the camera settings to get the best results. That's the fun of photography for some, but for others they simply aren't looking to go that far - they just want good photos in common situations, and are willing to leave certain types of shooting to the enthusiasts.

Most manufacturers have some form of 'ultrazoom' lens available - Tamron and Sigma both make 18-250 or 18-270 lenses for most of the mounts (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax). Some manufacturers have their own versions of 18-200s or 18-250s (Canon has an 18-200, Sony has an 18-250, etc).

In general you stick to the camera mount you buy - Nikon takes Nikon, Canon takes Canon, Sony takes Sony (and Minolta since they took over that line), Pentax takes Pentax, Olympus takes Olympus. Some can take adapters that allow them to use other lenses, but often are bulkier, slower, and lose some functionality like focus or aperture control.

If you don't really need to shoot in low light that often, or when you do you can use a tripod, if you don't intend to frequently shoot indoor sports or flying birds at dusk, and you don't need to make 2-foot by 3-foot prints, you may find a superzoom camera will do just fine for your needs for now.

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pittguy53178
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to trekkeruss, Apr 2, 2011

I was thinking about getting one of those cameras until I saw ISO only goes up to 1600..Seems pretty remarkable to me..

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jungleexplorer
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to trekkeruss, Apr 2, 2011

trekkeruss wrote:

Here's a few:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sony-Alpha-A230-Slr-Digital/11089350?sourceid=1500000000000003142050&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=11089350

http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00353193000P?sid=IDx20070921x00003c&srccode=cii_10043468&cpncode=23-134739068-2

http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00353474000P?sid=IDx20070921x00003c&srccode=cii_10043468&cpncode=23-134739159-2

Here's a two lens kit for $620 (using coupon BUYUDIGCLUB30):

http://www.buydig.com/shop/product.aspx?sku=PKKXKT255300K

A Tamron 18-270mm (available for Canon and Nikon only) comes pretty close. It doesn't offer as high a quality of images as two or three more specialized lenses, but it is an all-in-one solution.

The Pentax K-x looks like a good deal, and it does video too. Two questions though. 1. I have heard some say that that you can crop a portion of a photo taken with a 300mm lens on a dslr and get a better quality photo then a megazoom with a 700mm zoom lens all the way out. Would this be true with the Pentax K-x?

2. The Pentax K-x comes with two lens. what would the combined weight of the camera and both the lenses be?

The the Tamron 18-270mm lens cost over $600 by it self. Could not afford to go this route even if I wanted to.

Thanks for the info.

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Deleted1929
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 2, 2011

I have heard some say that that you can crop a portion of a photo taken with a 300mm lens on a dslr and get a better quality photo then a megazoom with a 700mm zoom lens all the way out. Would this be true with the Pentax K-x ?

Yes.

Bare in mind that a P&S rated at 700mm is actually giving the same field of view as a Pentax K-x with a 460mm lens on it. That's a relatively harmless crop from a 300mm lens on the K-x.

In addition the large sensor means that detail is retained better and the noise level is much lower. The low noise also aids detail retention.

Your best bet for that would be the Pentax 55-300 combined with the 18-55 kit lens. The 55-300 is very good optically.

Look for these used if you can't afford them in a kit.

The Pentax K-x comes with two lens. what would the combined weight of the camera and both the lenses be?

A bit over a kilo.

If that sounds like a lot when moving from a P&S I assure you you get used to it pretty quickly. It's a very small weight by DSLR standards.

The the Tamron 18-270mm lens cost over $600 by it self. Could not afford to go this route even if I wanted to.

Try to avoid this all-in-one superzoom route. It's optically not a very good idea. Changing lenses may seem inconvenient now, but it's the best way. The 18-55 and 55-300 are a better optical combination than the single lens.

Again remember to look for used lenses. It's surprising how much you can save if you watch for bargains.

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jungleexplorer
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to zackiedawg, Apr 2, 2011

zackiedawg wrote:

If you don't really need to shoot in low light that often, or when you do you can use a tripod, if you don't intend to frequently shoot indoor sports or flying birds at dusk, and you don't need to make 2-foot by 3-foot prints, you may find a superzoom camera will do just fine for your needs for now.

This statement describes me to a T. If you look at my gallery, you will see that I am an opportunistic nature shooter, not a professional photographer. I would not even say that for me photography even classifies as a main hobby. It's more of a sub-hobby. In other words, it is what I do while I am doing something else. I love taking good pictures of nature, but I will not go somewhere just to take pictures. But this Pentax K-x package below looks temping. What do you all think I should do? Should I stick with the $500 HS20 ultrazoom, or go with the following Pentax package for $650?

Pentax K-x Digital SLR Lens Kit w/ DA L 18-55mm and 55-300mm Lens (Black)

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sdboyd79
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 3, 2011

I have the K-x and initially got it with these two lenses. I couldn't be happier. However, from your description of yourself, it seems as a superzoom would be the best route for you.
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John Glover
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 3, 2011

The K-x package is a very good deal in my opinion. I own a K-x along with the 18-55 WR and the DA 55-300. Both are very good values for the money and make a great lightweight but versatile kit. Just make sure you get a couple of extra sets of Eneloop batteries for the camera and your all set.

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Sarwa Gunawan
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to sdboyd79, Apr 18, 2012

sdboyd79 wrote:

I have the K-x and initially got it with these two lenses. I couldn't be happier. However, from your description of yourself, it seems as a superzoom would be the best route for you.
--

Today, Bridge (Superzoom) camera is becoming cheaper and powerfulll such as GE Power Pro X600 with 25x optical zoom, CMOS BSI fast sensor and MSRP below $200 which can be read at Wikipedia:Bridge Camera and General Imaging. For who want to leave their P&S cameras, I think it's better to try the cheap, but affordable camera such as Bridge camera. Bridge means bridge between P&S and DSLR. After we familiar with PSAM and which most lenght (zoom) photos taken, maybe we can decide more accurate which DSLR brand and kit should be choosen. I hope everyone are not spend money too much for we are not needed.

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